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Top 4 Day Trips from Glasgow for Summer 2024

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Scotland’s largest city has undergone quite a transformation since it was crowned European Capital of Culture in 1990. Plus, there are so many day trips from Glasgow you can take to get acquainted with the ‘real’ Scotland.

One of the city’s biggest appeals is that it sits in Scotland’s Central Belt, making getting out of Glasgow for a day trip super easy. In this post, we’ll guide you through our four favorite day trips from Glasgow, each leading to a different corner of Scotland.

1. The Highlands

Let’s face it: the Highlands is the one of the top reasons that most people visit Scotland. Even if you’ve never set foot in the country, you have an idea of the Highlands. The breath-taking mountain scenery, misty lochs and tall pine forests are everything you imagined and more. To go to Scotland and not see any of the Highlands is like eating Haggis without the neeps and tatties. A visit to the Highlands is the ultimate of the day trips from Glasgow.

The Highlands covers a huge area. There’s no definitive answer as to where they begin and end: back in the middle ages, Scotland was divided into the Highlands and the Lowlands. The easiest parts of the Highlands to visit in a day (and, I think, the most beautiful) are the Tay Forest Park around Pitlochry and the Cairngorms National Park.

Pitlochry

Pitlochry is one of the most southerly points of the Highlands, earning it the moniker ‘The Gateway to the Highlands’. This small, attractive town is charming and an interesting place to visit. Start your day here with a wander along Atholl Road, Pitlochry’s main street.

This wide roadway is flanked by grand Victorian buildings, the town having grown after the royal residence at Balmoral was built for Queen Victoria in 1856. Pitlochry became a spa town, a memory kept alive by the Hydro Hotel which sits on a hilltop overlooking the main street.

Local tip: Stop for coffee and cakes at Morton’s Coffee Lounge, next to the Backpackers Hotel on Atholl Road. It’s my top pick in town – and their scones are divine!

Hydro is just as important to Pitlochry today, albeit in a slightly different form. Pitlochry Dam was built on the River Tummel in the town in 1950 and is still in use. The visitor centre is a short walk from the town centre. The Dam free to enter and has a viewing platform as well as a fascinating exhibit on the Dam’s history, plus a café and gift shop.

Once you’re done exploring the visitor centre, head outside and see the real thing up close. You can walk right across the dam: it’s worth it for the views alone. Once on the other side, there’s a riverside path to follow to get you back in to town.

Local tip: About five minutes along this path, the Port Na Craig Inn is a great spot to stop for lunch or a tipple.

Port Na Craig Inn’s riverside patio is the ideal place to unwind on a summer’s day, and when there’s a chill in the air, the fire-warmed lounge is the place to warm up.

Tay Forest Park

Once you’ve finished exploring Pitlochry (which includes leaving time to browse the independent shops on Atholl Road), head just outside the town to explore Tummel Forest Park. My favorite spot is Faskally Forest, which is within walking distance of Pitlochry.

This 25-acre woodland is home to Loch Dunmore and extends down to the banks of the River Tummel and Loch Tummel. It’s a great place to lose yourself in nature on the woodland trails.

If you’re planning a full day of sightseeing, just seven miles north of Pitlochry lies the little village of Blair Atholl, the home of the fairy-tale Blair Castle. Blair Castle is a 13th-century country house and the ancestral home of Clan Murray. Blair Castle is often a day trip from Glasgow in itself.

Another highlight is Blair Athol Distillery, which is open daily for tours and tastings. This is the perfect place to try some of the best Scotch whisky in Scotland.

Cairngorms National Park

A little further north from Pitlochry is the Cairngorms National Park. This alone covers a staggering 1,748 square miles from Newtonmore in the west to Ballater in the east.

My top recommendation is to head for the ski resort town of Aviemore, in the north of the National Park. This lively town offers an excellent choice of shops and restaurants, and is extremely well connected with transport links. It’s one of the easiest day trips from Glasgow.

Local tip: The Winking Owl is my favorite restaurant in Aviemore – it’s designed to look like an alpine-style lodge.

The Winking Owl serves an extensive menu of delicious dishes from Scottish classics to international highlights with views over the Cairngorms.

Once you’ve explored the town, it’s time to head out and explore some of the finest scenery the Cairngorms have to offer. Less than 10 minutes’ walk from the town center, you’ll come across The Old Bridge Inn. Stopping off for a pint of locally brewed Cairngorm beer is a must, and they have outdoor tables overlooking the River Spey.

Continue across the bridge for about ten minutes until you arrive at Rothiemurcus Estate. There’s a great farm shop and barn here, plus an unspoiled forest with woodland trails. A few miles further along this road, you’ll reach Loch Morlich. This is, to me at least, the most beautiful and serene place in the Highlands, and one of the best day trips from Glasgow.

Travel tip: Loch Morlich hosts Scotland’s only freshwater beach, which emerges from the forest. If you’re anything like me, you could spend the whole day here.

Continuing along Cairngorm Road, you’ll eventually reach Cairngorm Mountain itself. The highest peak in the range, standing at 4,084 feet, is a must when in the area. During the winter months, it’s a skiing hotspot, but the mountain is open to visitors year round.

A funicular railway links the base car park with the summit, where the Ptarmigan Restaurant serves warming hot chocolates and freshly baked delights with a view that – really – can’t be beaten.

How to get to the Highlands

By far, the most convenient way to explore the Highlands is by car. If you’re not travelling with one, you can easily rent a car in Glasgow. Another good option is to take an organised day tour, which allows you to cover a lot of ground with minimal stress.

By train

Travelling by public transport is easy, too. Scotrail trains travel several times a day between Glasgow and Pitlochry (1 hour 45 minutes) and Glasgow and Aviemore (2 hours 45 minutes). Tickets should be purchased online in advance to secure the best fares and to ensure a seat.

Travel tip: Many trains running north from Pitlochry also call at Blair Atholl, making it an easy stop on the way as part of your day trip from Glasgow.

By bus

Scottish Citylink coaches also provide several direct services every day between Glasgow, Pitlochry and Aviemore. Local bus services between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl and Aviemore and Cairngorm are operated by Stagecoach.

2. Loch Lomond

The closest of the famous lochs, Loch Lomond makes for a memorable day trip from Glasgow. What’s more, it couldn’t be easier to get there. There are many great tours that pass through Loch Lomond.

Balloch

Start your day at the southern tip of the loch, in Balloch. This charming town is just 16 miles from Glasgow but feels a world away. There’s a great choice of restaurants and coffee shops here as well as Loch Lomond Shores which is home to more than a dozen stores, including an outlet of the famous Scottish department store Frasers.

Once you’ve snapped up a bargain or two, head along to the Sea Life aquarium which is home to over 1,500 creatures. My favorite are their three Asian Short Clawed Otters: Lily, Pickle and Cub. You can purchase tickets online to avoid the queues on busy days.

Local tip: If you’re feeling peckish, my top tip for lunch is Jurassic Grill, a fun, albeit slightly cheesy, dinosaur-themed restaurant within Loch Lomond Shores.

Jurassic Grill serves simple, but hearty favorites including steaks, burgers and pizzas to devour in an indoor jungle with model dinosaurs all around. It’s particularly fun if you’ve got children in tow, but equally novel without!

After lunch, head back to the shores of Loch Lomond to admire the Maid of the Loch, a paddle steamer which first took visitors on cruises around the loch in 1953. She’s currently undergoing extensive restoration works and is moored up. Whilst this means you can’t take a cruise on the Maid right now, you can get an insight in to what it takes to restore a 70-year-old steamer.

Luss

Next up, head north to the tranquil village of Luss. This typically Scottish village is teeming with quaint cottages which brought the village into the spotlight when it was used for filming the 1980s soap High Road.

You can take a cruise on Loch Lomond from Balloch, but we think Luss is the best place to take a cruise on Loch Lomond. Circular Cruises are available with frequent departures from the village pier. This is the best way to explore the famous ‘bonnie banks’ and is the only way to appreciate the stunning surroundings from every angle.

Getting to Loch Lomond from Glasgow

Loch Lomond is well connected by public transport, making it an easy day trip to take from Glasgow. Trains run every 30 minutes through the day from Glasgow Queen Street to Balloch with fares from just £6.80 return.

Scottish Citylink coaches connect Balloch with Luss, as well as Glasgow. Check timetables and book in advance online to reserve a seat, as these routes can be very popular.

Local tip: If you’re able to hire a car in Glasgow, driving around Loch Lomond allows the most freedom.

If you drive, you can get to places the trains and buses can’t reach, and do a full circuit of the loch, returning via The Trossachs National Park.

3. West Highland Line

Famous the world over, the West Highland Line should take little introduction. Rated as the world’s most scenic train journey by Wanderlust in 2023 (for a second time), this is a train journey which compares to no other.

Glasgow is the line’s southern terminus, making a day trip along the tracks an unmissable option. The line has two branches, which split at Crianlarich: a branch leaves the main West Highland Line here for Oban, whilst the mainline continues north to Fort William and Mallaig. Whichever option you pick, the scenery is stunning.

Oban

Opting to head for Oban is a great idea on a day trip as it’s the shorter of the train lines, meaning you’ll get more time to explore the town.

Oban is a busy port town and serves as the gateway to the Hebrides, with passenger ferries departing regularly for Mull, Barra, South Uist and the Small Isles. On a day trip along the West Highland Line, it’s even possible to hop on a ferry across to Mull and be back in time to catch the train home to Glasgow.

Local tip: Oban is Scotland’s seafood capital. For lunch, you can’t beat some fish & chips by the harbour.

Our top pick for food in Oban is George Street Fish Restaurant where you can dine in or get take out and eat at nature’s dining table.

Whilst in Oban, climb up McCaig’s Tower. Funded by John McCaig, a local banker, the tower was built in 1897 purely to give the local stonemasons some work. Clamber back down towards the harbor to visit the Oban Peace and War Museum. This excellent free museum tells the story of Oban’s role in the Second World War, when Australian, Canadian and American airmen were stationed here.

Fort William

If you decide to continue north from Crianlarich, you’ll witness some of the West Highland Line’s most dramatic scenery. Crossing the expansive Rannoch Moor, the train pulls into Corrour, the highest and most remote station on the entire British rail network. At 1,340 metres above sea level, the nearest road is 10 miles away. It’s amazing to think that this can be a day trip from Glasgow.

Around 30 miles further along the line is Fort William. The largest town in the West Highlands, Fort William is known as the ‘Outdoor capital of the UK’ and is a great base for exploring the lochs, glens and mountains which surround it.

Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak, is just a few miles north of the town and imposes itself upon Fort William. You won’t have time to climb Ben Nevis on a day trip from Glasgow, but you will get some great views of it.

If you want to get up close to the mountain, take a bus or taxi to the Nevis Range Mountain Resort and take a ride 650 metres up Ben Nevis on the mountain gondola.

Local tip: Back in Fort William, grab lunch at Crannog Seafood Restaurant, which has the best views in town. Watch seals bobbing around in Loch Linnhe as you savour the day’s fresh catch.

The owners of Crannog restaurant also offer boat trips on Loch Linnhe. Their two-hour trips depart daily at noon and two-thirty. During the ride, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife and get some excellent shots of Ben Nevis.

One final stop to make in Fort William is the West Highland Museum. It’s free to enter and covers everything from prehistoric times to the modern day. There’s a particularly interesting exhibit on the Jacobite risings.

Mallaig

Making it to the very end of the West Highland Line in a day trip is possible, but only if you’re up for a very long day. That said, catching the first train from Glasgow and last one back gives you a good four and a half hours in this charming harbor town.

The main reason to travel north of Fort William is to ride across Glenfinnan Viaduct, famous for it’s appearance in the Harry Potter films, as well as Monarch of the Glen and The Crown.

Once you’ve reached Mallaig, take a walk down to the pretty harbor and watch the boats bob around on the Sound of Sleat. From here, ferries depart for Armadale on the Isle of Skye.

Travel tip: Even if you’re planning to catch the next train back from Mallaig, you’ll have time to take a trip across to Skye.

Ferries depart eight times a day and the journey takes just half an hour. Check the latest timetables with the ferry operator, CalMac before travelling and always check their service status page before leaving Mallaig to avoid getting stuck on Skye! This is the easiest way to take a day trip from Glasgow to Skye.

How to take a ride on the West Highland Line

West Highland Line trains depart from Glasgow Queen Street Station (note that there are two train stations in Glasgow city centre, Queen Street and Central). There are four trains per day in each direction between Glasgow and Fort William/Mallaig, and five per day between Glasgow and Oban.

Journey times are just over three hours to Oban, just under four hours to Fort William and five-and-a-quarter hours to Mallaig. Tickets should be purchased in advance online to get the best fares and to reserve a seat, which is particularly important during the busy summer months.

4. Isle of Bute

Scotland is world renowned for its islands. After all, Scotland does have around 900 islands, so it would seem a pity not to visit at least one during your time here. And it’s possible to do so with a day trip from Glasgow.

Bute, sitting in the Firth of Clyde, is one of the easiest islands to reach from Glasgow, making it ideal for as one of your day trips from Glasgow.

Rothesay

Upon arrival in Rothesay, the main town and ferry port, head to the Discovery Centre which houses a small, but informative multimedia exhibit on the island’s history. The top attraction in town is Rothesay Castle. Now ruins, albeit fairly complete ones, it was built in the 13th century, but no one knows exactly when.

Right opposite the castle is Bute Museum which has a surprisingly large collection of exhibits, covering Bute’s history, archaeology, geology, flora and fauna.

Local tip: My favorite spot for lunch in Rothesay is The Kettledrum which overlooks the harbour.

On a nice day, take a seat at one of their outdoor tables and enjoy Scottish favorites including fish & chips and homemade pies.

Explore Bute

In the afternoon, get out of town and explore some of the island’s natural beauty. The best way to see as much of the island as possible is to jump on the CitySightseeing open-top tour bus which gives a tour of the south of Bute, departing four times per day. If you have time, hop off at Mount Stewart, a gothic-inspired country house and estate just outside Rothesay.

Another great place to stop is Scalspie Bay, a stunning sandy beach which is rarely busy and a great place to take in the scenery with no distractions bar the waves lapping at the shore. The next stop along, Ettick Bay, is just as beautiful.

How to get to Bute from Glasgow

Getting to Bute by public transport is very simple, and takes around 90 minutes. Take a train from Glasgow Central to Wemyss Bay (50 minutes, from £9.20 return), then catch the CalMac ferry to Rothesay. The ferry leaves from right beside the very grand train station and runs every hour. The journey takes 35 minutes and return fares (for foot passengers) cost £6.90.

It’s always easier to book train tickets in advance but ferry tickets should be purchased at the pier or onboard.

If you’re traveling with your own car, which will give you the opportunity to explore Bute at your own pace, you should book your ferry tickets online to make sure there’s space for your vehicle.

How about Edinburgh as a day trip from Glasgow?

Edinburgh and Glasgow are very well connected, and you can get between them in less than an hour by train. It’s definitely possible to take a day trip to Edinburgh from Glasgow and spend a good few hours there. Check out our handy ‘Day Trip to Edinburgh‘ guide for some helpful tips!

These are our top 4 picks for a day trip from Glasgow. As always, the more time you have, the more you should take! Glasgow is, in its own special way, a beautiful city, but what lies beyond is even more beautiful. The lochs, the glens, the peaks and the isles are all waiting to be discovered.


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